Posted by: Mark Lewis | October 24, 2011

Blackboard Learn 9.1 is coming!

This fall the UMass Boston educational technology team is working closely with UMass Online and representatives from Blackboard .com to plan an effective rollout of the next learning management system, Blackboard Learn 9.1. While a pilot group of faculty will teach the first group of courses in this system during the upcoming Spring 2012 semester, the target date for a fully supported, multi-campus instance of Blackboard Learn 9.1 is not until fall 2012. As we work now to ensure that all important teaching and learning functionality as well as key business goals and processes are incorporated into this system, our hope is to hear from you regarding your own instructional needs so that we do not leave any stones unturned. An example might be the need for synchronous conferencing, which is one of the areas where we will make it a priority to have a seamless integration. This prioritization results from our use cases, as well as the “user stories” we collected from interested faculty last spring and which we continue to receive.

Many people don’t know that over half of all UMass Boston courses are now using Blackboard Vista, which has been our learning management system since 2005. This number is up by more than 30 percent in the last two years. It includes not only the roughly 230 online courses run through University College each semester, but also over 900 regular, face-to-face classes that utilize Blackboard in numerous ways. Due to the widespread use of Blackboard Vista, we can assure all users that we will continue to support the current system throughout the migration process, or until January 2014—whicever comes first.

Numerous colleges and universities are undertaking similar migrations to Blackboard Learn 9.1 this year. One institution that recently made the switch is Tulane University, another university where over half of all courses use Blackboard. As UMass Boston seeks to serve larger numbers of students over the next several years, new tools and functionality offered within Blackboard Learn 9.1 will enable us to communicate with students beyond the course level.  As instructional technologist Eric Dearholt observed at Tulane, “By giving students personalized information on every aspect of their university experience in one online centralized location, we’re giving them a richer overall experience, which in turn has a positive impact on student loyalty to the institution over time.” We look forward to this and many other enhancements that will strengthen our ability to meet our goals for the future.

You can learn more about such enhancements at Blackboard Learn’s “Feature Showcase.” Also stay tuned for news from the Instructional Support team about when we will offer a preview session of Blackboard Learn 9.1 for faculty, including how it differs from Vista. More details on this preview session will be forthcoming. Meanwhile we look forward to continuing our work with faculty as we implement Blackboard Learn 9.1 and other related instructional technologies.



  1. Mark,

    Great post and thank you so much for not only your ongoing efforts, but also to all of the folks across UMass Boston who have already committed so much to ensuring the success of such a significant initiative. While many may now be focusing on the migration from Vista to Learn 9 (and rightly so), I wanted to make sure the Boston campus community also recognized your team’s significant contributions to the Learning Platform Review and in identifying the University’s next generation platform. We wouldn’t be were we are without your insights, experience and expertise–thanks!

    UMassOnline–and I believe University Information Technology Services (UITS), the University President’s Office and our service provider, Blackboard would agree–are all dedicated to supporting your, and UMass Boston’s, efforts and ensuring a smooth transition to Learn 9. To do so, together we have developed a series of activities and milestones based on Blackboard’s recommended ‘Upgrade Planning Process’ ( already in use by multiple campuses to aid in their migrations. For those that might be interested in following along with our own progress with the migration, we invite you to visit the project website at: You should feel free to comment and contribute.

    Thanks again Mark and I look forward to working with you more,

    Patrick Masson
    Chief Technology Officer, UMassOnline
    University of Massachusetts

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